Wednesday, April 23, 2008

simple diagnosis in medical terms..

Surviving the Doctor
Dean Johns

There have been times when some of us have despaired of Malaysia’s ability to survive 22 years of political malpractice by Dr Mahathir Mohamad, plus four years of further incompetent treatment by his unqualified hand-picked locum, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Cancerous with corruption, riddled with cronyism, half-paralysed with fear and drugged senseless on opiates doled-out by teams of spin-doctors, the nation appeared for decades to have all the symptoms of terminal decline.

But the recent general election demonstrated that Malaysia is more resilient than many gave it credit for.

The people lost their patience with feeling like patients, gave the government and its spin-doctors a dose of their own medicine, and are now hopefully helping restore their nation to robust health.

Umnois looking pretty sick, however, and the prime minister must be acutely aware that ‘PM’ also stands for post-mortem, thanks to the good Dr M’s none-too-gentle ministrations.

According to a Malaysiakini report the other day, Mahathir told a gathering organised by the Pusat Bandar Taman Cempaka Umno branch that the only remedy for Abdullah’s refusal to resign as Umno president is radical surgery.

He urged Umno members to “muster enough courage to cut off the diseased part of the party before the malignant sickness spreads and leads to the demise of the party”.

“The doctor's prescription,” he continued with gruesome glee, “is to cut the sick leg in order to save the other parts so that the whole body can get better and does not die. I feel that if nothing happens, if surgery is not done and we do not discard the gangrenous part, Umno will not be brought back to its former health.

"And the medical theme didn’t end there. At almost the same time as the superannuated sawbones was dispensing his piece of professional advice, Gua Musang Umno division chief Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah was telling an extraordinary general meeting of his division that Umno can only be saved by “purging” the party of the "bad, corrupt, uncultured, immoral and unwise" people at the top.

Faced with the choice of purging or amputation, Abdullah was forced to abandon his customary elegant silence and retort that Dr M was the cause of his problems, not the cure. That, in other words, this was a classic occasion for the old exhortation, ‘Physician, heal thyself’.

He was quoted as saying that it was Mahathir who clamped down on press freedom as well as launching Operasi Lalang against political dissidents in 1987.

And asked whether Mahathir would be investigated for his role in the 1987 judicial crisis and other abuses of power, he replied: “As far as this government is concerned, our stand is if there is proof, the agencies can go ahead and charge anyone.

”When the good doctor was asked for his reaction to these counter-accusations, he responded with a characteristic dose of double-talk to the effect that Abdullah was “merely seeming to point out other people’s faults while ignoring his own”.

Optimistic prognosis

This, unlike most of the Doctor’s self-serving sarcasm, unfortunately turns out to be true, as the prime minister, possibly unnerved by threats of medical intervention, has now moved beyond the field of physical therapy to the more rarified realm of psychiatry with the paranoid theory that the main cause of his electoral reverses was “sabotage by Umno members”.

He was quoted as telling a gathering of 1,000 Umno party faithful: "In our analysis, there were at least 14 parliamentary and 22 state seats which we were guaranteed to win. But as a result of sabotage, we lost them."

He then went on to claim that, despite his government’s inability to accomplish and implement all it promised in 2004, “the voters did not reject us”.

The reality, of course, is that voters were so sick of being shabbily treated for as long as they could remember that they rejected him in unprecedented numbers. And now support for him is haemorrhaging badly as Umno power-junkies and their cronies panic at the prospect of losing access to the massive injections of illicit cash that the good Doctor got them hooked on.

Abdullah seems incapable of the obvious remedy for his plight, which is to get rid of the germs that infest his office, cabinet and party and start sanitising Umno’s act.

Meanwhile the Doctor himself, having long forsaken the Hippocratic Oath in favour of the hypocritic approach, is doing everything he can to wash his hands of any blame for the whole situation and treat himself to an image transplant.

Never mind that everybody recalls his bad-side bedside manner whenever he was crossed, his kill-or-cure treatment of the judiciary back in 1988, or the way he took out his spleen on his deputy, Anwar Ibrahim, a decade later.

Today, as he witnesses and pretends to welcome a fresh outbreak of the reformasi epidemic that he fought so viciously back then, you could almost be fooled into believing he was in favour of it all along.

Except when the mask slips, of course, as it did just the other day when he ventured the outrageous suggestion that Malaysia give asylum to the gruesome geriatric Robert Mugabe when the people of Zimbabwe finally succeed in getting rid of him.

But whatever Dr M quacks on about these days, most Malaysians are cured of the need to listen, let alone follow Doctor’s orders, as now they’re increasingly confident that their nation will survive him and eventually recover from his maltreatment.

Just as, if there’s any justice at all, the good doctor will live to see the end of the poisonous regime he prescribed for the nation, and even the death of Umno itself.

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